Alfredo’s co-owner and Clarks Summit resident Leslie Minicozzi Galacci celebrates the memory of her brother and best friend Capt. James R. Minicozzi with the third annual Capt. James Minicozzi Memorial Run/Walk Saturday, Aug. 30, in downtown Scranton. She has poured much of her heart and time into the enterprise this year, hoping to still gather more sponsors and donations for the event. Her brother’s favorite charity was the Boys & Girls Club and all proceeds will benefit them. Minicozzi Galacci has drawn support from her family, fellow UNICO Scranton Chapter committee members, friends, her brother’s friends and the community to push the race forward. She has embodied her brother’s saying, “Keep the Faith,” by striving to get as many people as possible involved. Meet Leslie Minicozzi Galacci ...
Tell us about yourself.
Originally, I’m from West Scranton. I’m a 1989 West Scranton High School graduate and attended the University of Scranton. I was the commuter vice president, but dropped out my freshman year. I was taking communications courses and found that it just wasn’t for me. Cameras bother me. Usually, I’m a huge social butterfly in a crowded room, but when it comes down to lights, camera, action — I just freeze up. As far as family, we’re all a very close-knit bunch. My parents, James Paul Minicozzi and Theresa Madonna Minicozzi, were high school sweethearts and got married shortly after they finished high school. I grew up with two siblings — my older sister, Theresa Mary, and my younger brother, Jimmy. Being the middle child, I always joked that I suffered from middle child syndrome, but I wasn’t ever neglected. We were all very active with sports. Basically, I was your typical tomboy. I played basketball and baseball, ran track and won the home run derby three years in a row. I have a son, Zachary, who is going to be a sophomore at Bloomsburg University this coming year. Also, I’m thankful I left the University of Scranton, not only because communications was not for me, but also because I never would have met Don Galacci, my husband, with whom I co-own Alfredo’s. I’m really lucky to have my family. They are all very supportive.
The memorial run is to commemorate your brother. Tell us more about him.
My brother had such a wonderful personality. He was my brother and best friend. When I was going through a rough time in my life, he let both my son and I stay with him. I was searching for apartments, but he told me flat out not to. He said we were both welcome to stay with him. That’s just the type of person he was. He broke down his office where he did debriefings and turned it into a bedroom for my son. He gave me his guest room and a roof over my head and he knew I could never pay him back for everything he was doing for us. To try and help out, I would cook dinner some nights. He shouldn’t have had to say “thank you,” but he did and, as usual, put me at ease by teasing me, calling me the live-in nanny. He held numerous positions with the U.S. Army and was in active duty with the Army National Guard. He centralized his life around the community, taking part in various organizations. He was a member of St. Lucy’s Church, the La Festa Italiana board of directors, UNICO, Gino Merli Veterans Center, Boy & Girls Club of NEPA, American Cancer Society, Pennsylvanians for Human Life board of director chairman and an active fourth-degree member of the Knights of Columbus, serving as the grand knight. Not only did he do so much with the community and for his family, he also was a Eucharistic minister. He was proud of this and of being a member of all the committees he was on. Jimmy always said, “The greatest award or title I’ve ever earned is daddy.” He has a son named Wesley James Minicozzi, who we miss very much, since he was uprooted to LaGrange, Georgia, after my brother’s passing. It’s been so difficult after he passed away. As a parent, I understand what my parents are going through. You never stop being a parent. And nobody should have to lose or bury his or her own child. Jimmy was only 36 years old and he had so many accomplishments in his life going for him that it’s just so sad.
How did the commencement of the race come about initially and continue to thrive after your brother’s passing?
The race originated three years ago with my brother starting it for the community. His goal was to eventually have it be similar to the Italian Festival in Jessup — Saint Ubaldo Day’s Running of the Saints. When he passed away, the La Festa committee unanimously voted then to have the 5K run/walk annually and to name it in memory of him, dubbing it the Captain James R. Minicozzi 5K Run/Walk. After witnessing the children from the Boys & Girls Club benefit so much from it last year, we want to keep it alive annually. We were able to raise enough money to feed 300 children and supply them all with warm sweatshirts. They enjoyed a visit from Mr. and Mrs. Claus, received really nice presents that were donated and listened to a DJ in the gym.
Your brother seemed to have a very strong character. Did you incorporate a theme after him into preparations for the race?
Jimmy’s saying was always “Keep the Faith.” He signed everything that way. We decided to make the saying our theme for this year’s race. You will find a lot of our letters signed with the phrase. It’s on the T-shirts and it’s on the vehicle decals we are selling.
Where will all the proceeds go that you collect from the memorial run?
The proceeds will go strictly to the Boys & Girls Club of NEPA, because that was Jimmy’s favorite charity. He always believed that children were our future. If roles were reversed, I’m sure he’d probably have double the funds made than I have now. Last year we raised $3,200 after expenses and I would love to see it grow bigger and bigger every year. I set a goal to reach $5,000 this year, which has been fully successful in that we are now well over this amount. Not to mention, we have doubled the number of sponsors that we had last year.
Where and until when can people send donations?
Anyone can donate by going to one of the three sites on our flyer — lafestaitaliana.org, unicoscranton.org or neparunner.com. We’ll take money for the Boys & Girls Club all the way up until December. The more we can get in and turn over for the charity, the better.
Could you tell us more about what people can expect from the race?
It’s a 5K run/one-mile mile walk. People can register on the day of the race, at either at the corner of Linden Street and Washington Avenue from 8 a.m. to 9:30 a.m, or the websites I mentioned earlier. Pre-registration deadline must be received by Aug. 27 and a mail form and the $20 registration fee must be sent to UNICO Scranton, P.O. Box 278, Dunmore, PA 18512 with checks made payable to UNICO National-Scranton Chapter. The first 100 people that register by either means are guaranteed a T-shirt. Rain or shine, the race will take place on Aug. 30 at 10 a.m. It starts at Wyoming Avenue and Lackawanna and proceeds to Green Ridge Street, then North Washington Avenue before ending at Scranton City Hall. The first place male and female runner and walker overall get a trophy. Then the top three runners and walkers of each age group get a medal. This year we plan on having the medals consist of the Italian colors — green, white and red. They are engraved on the front stating the event’s name, which is attributed to my brother. On the other side, the person’s category and place the person received is listed on the back. The age categories are 13 and under, 14-19, 20-30, 31-40, 41-50, 51-60 and 61 and over. Believe it or not, we have participants for every bracket!
What plans do you have for future fundraising activities?
My biggest fear, as Jimmy’s sister, is that people and the community will forget my brother. So, continuing this race annually is very important to me. I feel that having it kick off La Festa Italiana, gaining sponsors and reaching out to people to run and walk will keep his memory alive. For future races, I will strive to get more sponsors and will continue trying to bring in as many proceeds to give to the Boys & Girls Club of NEPA. I would love to see us reach a $10,000 amount next year. People sometimes do not realize, but even $20 can go a long way by feeding two children. Anything helps. My family and I are so grateful to all who have donated and helped to make this race a success.
I’ve done what my brother would have told me to do — “Keep the faith!” It’s been working for me so far, except when I play Powerball!